SOAS University of London

Human Resources

Research Leave Policy


1. Research leave is one of the most significant elements in the career development of research active academic staff. It is therefore important that the allocation of this resource, so precious both to the individuals who receive it and to the School which must finance it, be seen to be managed in the most fair, efficient and effective way possible. This document sets out the School’s research leave policy and procedure. The policy and procedure will be revised annually to ensure conformity with other relevant School policies.

2. For the purposes of this policy and procedure ‘research leave’, ‘study leave’ and ‘sabbatical’ are equivalent terms. Research leave is defined as leave paid for by SOAS University of London to enable academic staff to pursue research and scholarship free from teaching and administrative duties.

3. In considering applications for paid research leave the following principles will apply:           

  • Applications for research leave should outline a clear and achievable research plan with a timeline and clear specific outcomes in terms of internationally-excellent publications and/or externally funded research projects.            
  • Previous research leave outcomes will be taken into account.            
  • The extent to which applicants have contributed positively to the teaching and administrative demands of the department will be taken into account.            
  • Research leave should not be approved where the individual has failed to carry out reasonable teaching duties when requested, or to comply with annual monitoring of research.
  • Research leave should not be approved if the applicant intends use the leave to teach at another institution.

4. Research leave will be granted after due consideration of workloads including teaching responsibilities with the aim of minimising disruption to teaching programmes. Balancing research leave, teaching and other activities will be achieved through discussion and agreement with the relevant Head of Department.


5. All academic staff (Lecturers, Senior Lecturers, Readers, Professors) on an open-ended academic (teaching & research) contract may apply for research leave. Entitlement to research leave is not automatic but based on the merits of a proposal and the strategic needs of Departments and the School.

6. Staff are eligible to apply for one term of research leave after 8 terms of normal duties. Although academic staff may apply to take paid sabbatical leave immediately after 8 terms of normal duties, staff wishing to delay their research leave may do so.  However, no more than three consecutive terms of accumulated leave may be taken at one time, after which individuals are expected to return to full teaching duties for a minimum of 1 year. Any member of staff wishing to take two terms research leave within one academic year must include the summer term as one of the terms by taking terms 1 and 3 or 2 and 3.

7. Early Career Researchers may apply for one additional term of leave on successful completion of the full three-year probationary period. The School defines an academic member of staff as an Early Career Researcher if they are on a full probationary period of three years and have completed their PhD within four years.

8. Staff are eligible to apply for an additional term of research leave if they have taken a period of parental leave of between 6 and 12 months. This leave must be taken within three years of the end of the period of parental leave, and should not be taken consecutively to paid sabbatical leave. Parental leave is the only type of leave that does not stop the counter of terms of service*. All other types of paid leave stop the counter.

9.Members of staff occupying specific roles such as Head of Department and Associate Director are subject to alternative arrangements for research leave.

10. Heads of Department are entitled to one year of paid research leave on completion of a full term of office (a minimum of four years).

11. Associate Directors are entitled to one year of paid research leave on completion of a full term of office (a minimum of four years). The application for leave will be considered by the Pro-Director.

12. Pro-Directors are entitled to one year of paid research leave on completion of a full term of office (a minimum of five years). The application for leave will be considered by the Director.

13. In each case, the agreed leave will need to be reported to Executive Board and the Department.


14. Requests for research leave using the SOAS Research Leave application form should be sent to the relevant Department Manager who will pass them on to the Department’s leadership team for decision. Staff who hold joint appointments in more than one Department must submit their request for research leave to both Departments who must reach agreement about the application. If agreement cannot be reached in such cases, the decision will pass to the relevant Pro-Director. The Head of Department will discuss research leave requests with individual applicants before making their final decision, or delegate this to a member of their department leadership team. 

15. Where there is disagreement about eligibility for leave, or about the appropriateness of the leave that is applied for, Heads of Department should consult with the relevant Pro-Director.


16.Research and scholarship should be linked to the School’s strategic objectives. Staff granted research leave are expected to provide regular updates on progress and work towards tangible outcomes that contribute to research excellence.

17. All staff granted research leave must submit a research leave report which must outline the research undertaken and outcomes. If the outcome(s) is/are substantially different from the original plan, an explanation of the reason for the difference must be provided at the beginning of the academic year following their leave.

18. Research leave reports will be submitted to the Head of Department who will then forward them to the Associate Director of Research, who will compile an annual report for the School’s Research and Enterprise Committee. A copy of the research leave report must also be forwarded to the Research and Enterprise Office.

Revised June 2017

* Includes Adoption/Maternity and Shared Parental Leave